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Gerard's Herbal - Part 2

Gerard's Herbal - CHAP. 73. Of Garden Poppies.

CHAP. 73. Of Garden Poppies.

Fig. 571. Kinds of Garden Poppy (1-4)


The Description.

            1. The leaves of White Poppy are long, broad, smooth, longer than the leaves of Lettuce, whiter, and cut in the edges: the stem or stalk is straight and brittle, oftentimes a yard and a half high: on the top whereof grow white flowers, in which at the very beginning appeareth a small head, accompanied with a number of threads or chives, which being full grown is round, and yet something long withal, and hath a cover or coronet upon the top; it is with many films or thin skins divided into coffers or several partitions, in which is contained abundance of small round and whitish seed. The root groweth deep, and is of no estimation nor continuance.

            2. Like unto this is the Black Garden Poppy, saving that the flowers are not so white and shining, but usually red, or at least spotted or streaked with some lines of purple. The leaves are greater, more jagged, and sharper pointed. The seed is likewise blacker, which maketh the difference.

            3. There is also another Garden Poppy whose leaves are much more sinuated, or crested, and the flower also is all jagged or finely cut about the edges, and of this sort there is also both black and white. The flowers of the black are red, and the seed black; and the other hath both the flowers and seed white.

            4. There are divers varieties of double Poppies of both these kinds, and their colours are commonly either white, red, dark purple, scarlet, or mixed of some of these. They differ from the former only in the doubleness of their flowers.

Fig. 572. Wild Poppy (5)

            5. There is also another kind of Poppy, which oft times is found wild; the stalks, leaves, flowers, and heads are like, but less than those of the precedent: the flowers are of an overworn bluish purple colour; after which follow heads short and round, which under their cover or coronet have little holes by which the seed may fall out; contrary to the heads of the former, which are close and open not of themselves. There is also a double one of this kind.


The Place.

            These kind of Poppies are sown in gardens, & do afterward come of the fallings of their seed.


The Time.

            They flower most commonly in June. The seed is perfected in July and August.


The Names.

            Poppy is called of the Latins, Papaver: the shops keep the Latin name; it is called in High Dutch, Magsamen: in Low Dutch, Huel and Mancop: in English, Poppy & Cheesebowls: in French, Pavot, and Oliette, by the Walloons.

            The Garden Poppy which hath black seeds, is named of Pliny and of the Latins, Papaver nigrum, whereof there be many variable colours, and of great beauty, although of evil smell, whereupon our gentlewomen do call it Joan Silver Pin.


The Temperature.

            All the Poppies are cold, as Galen testifieth in his book Of the Faculties of Simple Medicines.


The Virtues.

            A. This seed, as Galen saith in his book Of The Faculties of Nourishments, is good to season bread with; but the white is better than the black. He also addeth, that the same is cold and causeth sleep, and yieldeth no commendable nourishment to the body; it is often used in comfits, served at the table with other junketting dishes.

            B. The oil which is pressed out of it is pleasant and delightful to be eaten, and is taken with bread or any other ways in meat, without any sense of cooling.

            C. A greater force is in the knobs or heads, which do specially prevail to move sleep, and to stay and repress distillations or rheums, and come near in force to opium, but more gentle. Opium, or the condensed juice of Poppy heads is strongest of all: Meconium (which is the juice of the heads and leaves) is weaker. Both of them any ways taken either inwardly, or outwardly applied to the head, provoke sleep. Opium somewhat too plentifully taken doth also bring death, as Pliny truely writeth.

            D. It mitigateth all kind of pains: but it leaveth behind it oftentimes a mischief worse than the disease itself, and that hard to be cured, as a dead palsy and such like.

            E. The use of it, as Galen in his 11th book of medicines according to the places affected, saith, is so offensive to the firm and solid parts of the body, as that they had need afterwards to be restored.

            F. So also collyries or eye medicines made with opium have been hurtful to many; insomuch that they have weakened the eyes and dulled the sight of those that have used it: whatsoever is compounded of opium to mitigate the extreme pains of the ears bringeth hardness of hearing. Wherefore all those medicines and compounds are to be shunned that are to be made of opium, and are not to be used but in extreme necessity; and that it is, when no other mitigator or assuager of pain doth any thing prevail, as Galen in his third book Of Medicines, according to the places affected, doth evidently declare.

            G. The leaves of poppy boiled in water with a little sugar and drunk, causeth sleep: or if it be boiled without sugar, and the head, feet, and temples bathed therewith, it doth effect the same.

            H. The heads of Poppy boiled in water with sugar to a syrup causeth sleep, and is good against rheums and catarrhs that distill & fall down from the brain into the lungs, & easeth the cough.

            I. The green knops of Poppy stamped with barley meal, and a little barrow's grease, helpeth St. Anthony's fire, called Ignis sacer.

            K. The leaves, knops and seed stamped with vinegar, woman's milk, and saffron, cureth an Erysipelas, (another kind of St. Anthony's fire,) and easeth the gout mightily, and put in the fundament as a clyster causeth sleep.

            L. The seed of black Poppy drunk in wine stoppeth the flux of the belly, and the overmuch flowing of women's sickness.

            M. A caudle made of the seeds of white poppy, or made into almond milk, and so given, causeth sleep.

            N. It is manifest that this wild Poppy (which I have described in the fifth place) is that of which the composition Diacodium is to be made; as Galen hath at large treated in his seventh book Of Medicines, according to the places affected. Crito also, and after him Themison and Democritus do appoint the wild Poppy, to be in the same composition; and even that same Democritus addeth, that it should be that which is not sown: and such an one is this, which groweth without sowing. Dodonĉus.


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